It would be a bit too simplistic
to simply see this movie as a cautionary morality tale.
Sure, it sounds simple:
two old friends decide to foray into the
world’s oldest profession.
Fioravante (John Turturro) is a sometime flower
arranger who lives alone an a modest apartment in
New York City
not particularly young, nor is he especially handsome, but his cash-strapped
old friend Murray (Woody Allen) convinces Fioravante that he has just the
right combinations: masculine
without overbearing, quiet enough to be approachable, but articulate enough to
be an engaging conversationalist.
Sensitive without being overly dramatic.
Spiritual enough to recognize devotion in others
without being religious himself.
Not inclined to blab everything he knows.
Oh, and he genuinely enjoys pleasing others.
In other words, the perfect Gigolo.
It’s amazing how quickly Woody
Allen’s character turns this into a part-time hobby along the moral lines of
painting cabinets. Here’s
his friend Fioravante, ready and willing for lonely women to pay him to be
with them, so where’s the victim here?
What’s the harm?
Who’s getting hurt?
Well, of course, it’s Fioravante
who is surprised to suddenly find his emotions involved----not the first or
second or third time, but the one who cried when he rubbed her bare back.
Because nobody had touched her tenderly for so
Avigal (Vanessa Paradis) is a
young rabbi’s widow, whose sensual re-awakening surprises even herself.
But her absence from the tight little Orthodox
community has been noticed by the Neighborhood Patrol guy, Dovi (Liev
Schreiber), mainly because he has a crush on her and is too shy and fearful of
rejection to tell her.
Yes, we actually have the scarlet
woman dragged before the tribunal, where the learned rabbis sit in judgment on
her imprudent behavior------yes, comically ironic.
We almost expect Jesus to come in and say, “Let
the one who is without sin cast the first stone,” but of course He doesn’t
need to, because she’s already ‘fessed up to more than they dared to
consider, and in the end freely admits to being lonely, which, of course, is
awfully difficult to prosecute someone for.
Even though the dialogue was
written by John Turturro, coming out of Woody Allen, it still sounds so
stops and starts, the stuttering subtleties, the stammering dilemmas, the
It’s a wry, intelligent film with a great
moody-jazzy soundtrack that boasts big plot holes that nobody really minds.
Least of all the characters themselves.
What would you do for a friend in
wouldn’t you do? And
when you’ve stretched yourself beyond your comfort zone, will you readily
snap back to your old form, or will you be re-shaped, somehow, by the
Sure, those who love
will enjoy this even more.
But even us flat-footed Heartlanders can develop
an appetite for urbane, sophisticated, cosmopolitan whimsical fluff.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Minister,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,